I have a vision for a faith community to spring up around a free clinic to serve South Chico. This clinic would contribute to our community’s needs by providing behavioral health and spiritual services for free (or on a basis of “pay what you can”). All may contribute, but the goal is to erase any economic barriers to receiving help. This kind of generosity is key to the healing we seek to offer from our hearts.
I see the clinic using a location in the vicinity of Chapmantown (for example, 1010 Cleveland House or Bethel AME Church) for office space and to meet one-on-one with people seeking help, to gather groups for spiritual direction and worship, and as a drop-in desk for questions, advocacy, accompaniment or prayer. In addition to traditional counseling, the clinic may use outside spaces such as the 14th St. Garden and the Jesus Center Farm for learning new work skills and hearing God’s voice.
Although I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and part-time Counselor at Butte College, the emphasis for this counseling ministry is what I call accompaniment. Accompaniment is as much about prayer and hearing from God as it is about addressing poverty, oppression, and mental health issues. It is holistic spiritual friendship. It may include but is not limited to professional counseling. Each person seeking help will have many different kinds of needs; counselors will work with them toward an integrated kind of healing.
The long-term goals for this clinic may reflect many wonderful things in South Chico, but I am praying for God’s grace to make this little mustard seed grow among us in a non-anxious and non-stressful way. The logistics are pretty simple so far. Undoubtedly, we will need to make some adjustments along the way and maintain flexibility in order to work out any miscalculations. But the possibilities are inspiring to say the least.
Jesus taught his disciples, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.” In order to cover my own costs of facilitating the clinic and on behalf of those who join me in volunteering, I will pray for God’s grace to give freely and expect that he will provide for us better than we can imagine. When I have needs, that is, for housing or healthcare or other types of physical necessities, I will trust God and lean not on my own understanding. Like Jesus’ own vulnerable approach to ministry, we will depend on our Father in heaven who still takes care of his children.
God may lead others who see the value in what we do and are inspired by it to contribute with their own gifts (Luke 10:4-9), but we will rely on prayer and not fundraising to bring about the abundance we need. When our hearts are willing and eager to give, we feel incredible strength and hopefulness, even in poverty. In essence, we feel God’s Spirit giving to us right as we relinquish control of our stuff. We sense his presence guiding us and making it plain that we can depend directly on him.
I would ask you to join with me in “practicing his presence,” obeying Jesus’ command to love as He loves, freely giving to the poor, even becoming poor ourselves, and leading others with the simple things He’s given us to do. May we feel his Spirit blow right now in our hearts toward a mission of love, and a ministry committed to those both inside and outside our familiar boundaries.